It’s been a good week.
Reason One: Remember those job interviews I mentioned? I went to the first one, and I GOT IT. Huzzah! This is an excellent thing; jobs mean a reason to get up in the morning and, of course, money. And money equals the ability to finally start planning for The Husband and I to move into our own place. Oh, yes!
Reason Two: Do you also remember that I told you I’d ordered the new cookbook by the amazing Marian Keyes? It arrived, and it’s AMAZING. There are so many things in there that I’m desperate to try. I honestly can’t wait to have an excuse to get baking! Seriously, get your hands on this if you can. Not only is it a treasure trove of awesome recipes, but it’s also scattered with honest, witty, hilarious, devastating and heartbreaking insights into her battle with depression. As someone who has had to deal with and continues to deal with similar, though markedly milder, mental health issues, I cannot recommend this enough to everyone.
Reason Three: Finally, do you remember me saying that I had another reason to bake last week? Well, here it is. I entered a cake baking competition. Not something I’ve ever done or even considered doing before, but it all went fantastically well. My friend Jo and I discovered that Bodiam Castle, which is only about 1.5 hours away from where we live, was holding the competition. We’re both not-so-secret history geeks, so this seemed like the perfect excuse to drive out there – bake a cake, drop it off, fill in an entry form and then wander around the castle for the rest of the afternoon. Perfection!
What I WASN’T expecting was to win. YES, WIN. Me. I pretty much never win anything, so it came as a huge shock to me!
I’ll apologise in advance for the state of my photography in this entry; it was all a bit rushed and pictures were being snapped as I flung myself around the kitchen in a desperate bid to assemble the cake before we had to leave.
THE ULTIMATE, AWARD WINNING(!) CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY CAKE
For the cake:
400g dark chocolate
2 tbsp instant coffee
170g self raising flour
170g plain flour
1⁄2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
400g dark brown sugar
400g castor sugar
60g cocoa powder
6 medium eggs
170ml sour cream
curled/shaved/grated white chocolate, to decorate
curled/shaved/grated dark chocolate, to decorate
For the ganache:
230g dark chocolate
260ml double pouring cream
2 tbsp castor sugar
Grease and line two 10 inch cake tins and preheat the oven to 140 degrees Celsius (fan oven) or 160 degrees Celsius (conventional oven) (280 degrees Fahrenheit or Gas Mark 2). Meanwhile, break up the dark chocolate into pieces and place in a large, heavy-based saucepan. Cut the butter into pieces and add to the broken up chocolate, then mix the coffee into 250ml of cold water and add to the saucepan. Heat over a low heat until everything is just melted, stirring occasionally to help combine.
In a large mixing bowl, mix together the self-raising flour, plain flour, bicarbonate of soda, brown sugar, castor sugar and cocoa powder, combining with your hands to remove all the lumps. In another small bowl, whisk together the eggs and the sour cream.
Pour the melted chocolate mixture and the whisked egg and sour cream into the flour mixture, stirring well to combine. The batter should have quite a smooth, runny consistency. Divide the mixture evenly and pour into the two tins, then bake for 85 minutes – 90 minutes, until the top of the cakes are firm and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave the cakes to cool in the tins for 10 – 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
While the cakes are cooling, make the ganache. Break the dark chocolate into small pieces and place in a heatproof bowl. Pour the cream into a saucepan, add the castor sugar, and heat on medium heat until just before it boils. Take the cream off the heat and pour it over the chocolate, leaving it to stand for 1 minute. Stir until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth.
Now, assemble the cake. Place one of the cakes on a serving platter and spread one quarter – one third of the ganache over the top, leaving a narrow gap around the perimeter of the cake.
Arrange two thirds of the raspberries over the ganache in a circular pattern, placing them around the outer edge of the cake and working your way in, making smaller and smaller circles of raspberries until you reach the centre of the cake.
Drizzle 2 – 3 tablespoons of ganache lightly over the raspberries.
Next, place 3 heaped tablespoons of ganache on the other cake (on the side which is going to be sandwiched onto the bottom layer) and spread it so that it lightly covers the surface, once again leaving a gap around the perimeter.
Place this cake on top of the first, ganache side down, and press down very gently to sandwich together.
Pour the rest of the ganache over the cake, pushing it towards the edges with the back of a metal spoon and letting it fall down the sides of the cake.
Decorate with grated/curled/shaved dark and white chocolate and top with remaining raspberries in the centre.
After the super quick cake assembly, Jo, The Husband and I all bundled into the car and headed for Bodiam. After a fun filled drive getting completely and utterly lost down the narrow, winding country lanes and wasting a good hour trying to find our way back to the main road, we arrived – cake miraculously intact!
And here’s my trophy!
A big thank you and congratulations goes out to designated driver and fellow competitor Jo, whose cake made it into the final seven!